A Study In Crimson

Author: Alex Meadows
Development/Editing: Richard Moore

“A Study In Crimson” is a Pathfinder RPG scenario for 4-6 players of 7th or 8th level. GMs should feel free to liberally sprinkle their own encounters into the mix to toughen the journey, but two fully detailed monsters are included for your use here.

The PCs arrive at the Crimson Boar Inn only to find it mostly deserted. Patrons are few and far between at the normally busy sunset dinner hour. They pass a small graveyard outside the village of Boar’s Head where a gravedigger sings a disturbing but upbeat ditty—probably about corpses. He introduces himself as Igor and warns the adventurers that it’s not safe to be out at night, and points them in the direction of the Inn.

Scene 1—The Angry Young Man: Upon the PCs’ arrival, Cartigan Benevere storms out of the front door, yelling about that cheat Jacobsmith and his short-changing proteges. He threatens to find a way to close the bar once and for all. The party can try to talk with him, but he simply storms off and shouts a warning about the Inn being a deathtrap.

The party enters to see Britomus at the bar, cleaning what few dirty mugs are there. Hilda and Helga keep busying themselves between playing some complex version of solitaire and cleaning tables after the few patrons that come down for food leave the common room.

Britomus offers a room at a reduced rate for the party. Perceptive players would notice how nervous he is. This is the chance to meet some of the other employees and patrons.

Scene 2—Welcome to the Crimson Boar: The party meets some of the stock inn cast while obtaining food and lodging.

Doug and Neil sit at the bar, saddened by the loss of their late friend Bob. They have, characteristically enough, decided to drink loud toasts to their friend’s memory. If the party asks what happened to Bob, they explain that he died from a wild animal attack a few days ago. The strangest thing is that his parents claim someone saw Bob wandering on the outskirts of town. But that couldn’t be possible… right?

Garth is seated at a table where the elderly cat Nicodemus perches, casually moving a string around for the mangy old feline. As per usual, he’s half-drunk and mostly rambles hotheadedly about the theft of the Inn’s trademark trophy, the great red boar head normally mounted over the fireplace.

Brother Dendy and Taels are sitting at another table; Dendy is sampling some spices, herbs, and hops that Taels obtained for a special brew he is researching.

Once the party is seated for dinner, Hilda and Helga are quick to come over to take their orders. They talk up the blue plate special in the vaguest terms possible (it’s just stewed rabbit and squirrel with two seasonal vegetables, but they won’t identify the meat unless under extreme duress), and it is priced cheaper than anything but the basic hardtack and hydra jerky (which Britomus has started to practically give away). If anyone complains about the special to the waitresses or asks for substitutions, Chef Lovett will come out and make his displeasure known.

During their meal, the pimp Jacobsmith comes over and asks for the party’s protection for his girls. Can’t be too careful with a loose cannon like Cartigan around. All the party has to do is stay at the Inn in case they are needed. He will pay with girls or gold for their easy night’s work.

Scene 3—Dire Circumstances: During the night, the party is awakened by screams coming from downstairs. (If any of the party members decided to take Jacobsmith up on his offer, they may be present for this event.) If they rush down to the common room within three rounds, they see a hulking undead dire boar goring its tusks into one of Jacobsmith’s girls. Otherwise, they find the inert body of the fatally-wounded prostitute, blood pouring out of fresh wounds. A Heal check or similar mechanic reveals the exact nature of the wounds. A high Heal check (DC 25 or similarly high result) reveals that the wounds are already beginning to putrefy, indicating that the attacker has inflicted a potent, vile disease or poison. A trail of blood leads out of the common room into the caverns, past the hot springs and into the portals.

If the party decides to trek into the portals, you can use the GameMastery Chase Deck by Paizo to describe the many different caverns they find themselves in. (Be creative with the cavern descriptions – you don’t have to just use the dungeon mini-deck in the chase deck!)

The blood trail leads to a cavern with a large pool. The trail grows fainter as the PCs draw closer to this cavern entrance. Perceptive players will hear the sounds of battle and loud trumpeting of the resident river monster, Bessie the Elasmosaur. They see the zombie dire boar fighting the giant dinosaur, but once Bessie has the clear upper hand, the boar runs into a side tunnel and disappears. Perturbed that her nesting ground was intruded upon, Bessie turns her ire on the party.

The PCs make their way back to find Sheriff Deacon surveying the scene, and he immediately begins to interrogate the players about their recent whereabouts. He is immediately suspicious of the party, and should be considered unfriendly for the purpose of making Diplomacy checks.

After the interrogation is concluded, the Sheriff tells Britomus Drom that he has two days to catch the beast, or Deacon will close the Crimson Boar Inn for the safety of the public. After the Sheriff leaves, Britomus asks the PCs for details. He offers them a free lifetime pass to the hot springs and 500 gp each if they can kill the boar and provide proof of its demise.

Scene 4—The Investigation: The PCs can talk to any of the individuals they have already met during the course of their investigation, as well as reach out to Bob’s family, the gravedigger Igor who interred both Bob and the prostitute, and any other parties they may wish to seek out. Most of this section of the scenario is meant to be freeform and allow for GM improvisation, but there are a few key highlights to feature:

  • Bob was mauled by the boar and is now a zombie. Like the boar, he is infected with Zombie’s Touch (see the boar’s stat block for details), but he is otherwise identical to a normal zombie. He typically wanders the area between his family’s home and the graveyard. If he is met at the graveyard, the zombie prostitute will join in the battle.

(DEVELOPER’S NOTE: Zombies are far too weak opponents for a party of APL 7-8 PCs. I recommend using grave risen from the Tome of Horrors Complete instead. These foes are great fun if your PCs follow Bob back to the graveyard, since he and the prostitute can animate additional skeletons and zombies from the nearby graves to swarm the group. If you still think these are too easy, you can always add the advanced template onto them or insert another grave risen prostitute into the encounter to toughen the challenge.)

  • Cartigan is royally mad that Jacobsmith continues to ruin his fun. He threatens and boasts that he’ll make sure to make the wily flea-ridden pimp pay for shunning his coin. If the party reveals that one of the girls is dead and he’s the prime suspect, he’ll turn pale and calm down immediately, begging the PCs to help exonerate him and offering extra gold on top of what Britomus is paying if they clear his name (he can offer up to another 100 gp per PC).
  • Hilda and Helga have heard strange sounds coming from the caverns at night for the last week or so. They also happened to find a note while cleaning downstairs: a shopping list of supplies for a hunting expedition.
  • At some point, the adventurers will meet the cute calico Cali. They will find her playing with a metal pellet the size of a large marble in the Inn. If the adventurers pick it up, they’ll see a Crimson Boar’s Head coat of arms stamped on the side. If they show this to Britomus, he leads the party to an old storage closet in the Common Room. At the back of the closet is a giant carved boar’s head that matches the crest. The crest is actually the mechanism to open a secret door.
  • The pellet is actually one of the items holding Xavier (see below) to this world. It is the same type of shot used in Brinkus’ elephant gun. If one of the players is a gunslinger or otherwise proficient with firearms, he or she is able to use it, and firing the pellet will break the bond.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: My group fired the pellet right into the boar, which I ruled did more damage to the creature than normal and weakened the zombie boar since we were running short on time and I thought it a good reward for creativity.)

(DEVELOPER’S NOTE: I recommend treating the pellet as an undead bane projectile that also deals 2d3 Cha damage, which will lower the zombie boar’s hit points and other stats since it is undead.)

The room is actually the hidden study of the original founder of the Inn. While one would suspect that it would be a musty, dusty, time-eaten mess, it is actually very clean and tidy. There is another door on the far side of the room that is firmly locked. As the party begins to search the room, they get the eerie feeling that they are not alone. The ghost of Bartholomew Brinkus Bacchi, hunter extraordinaire and founder of the Crimson Boar Inn, materializes before them. He appears as a stout individual with a handlebar mustache, wearing a pith helmet and khaki clothing. He explains that he stays here because either his descendants or portal versions of himself keep finding their way here, and he has taken on the duty of making sure that the Inn remains safe. Unfortunately, his oldest descendant—one Xavier Skincrawler, an undead lich of great power—has made his way from the Crimson Boar Inn into another world to wreak havoc. Xavier read the original charter of the Inn too well. Here Brinkus points to his desk where the charter is clearly placed. He explains that in the event of the permanent closing of the Inn, ownership reverts back to his eldest descendant. Kicking himself for not including the word ‘living’, he now has to ask the party to save the Inn from his undead progeny.

Scene 5—Battle With The Crimson Boar: After the party has spent some time with Brinkus, the other door is hammered alarmingly by the charging zombie boar. However, Brinkus can hold the door shut until the PCs are prepared to face the beast.

Revenant Red Boar CR 7
XP 3,200
Advanced fast zombie dire boar
NE Large undead
Init + 1; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception + 0
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DEFENSE
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AC 19, touch 10, flat-footed 18 (+ 1 Dex, – 1 size, + 9 natural)
hp 82 (7d8 + 15)
Fort + 5, Ref + 6, Will + 9
Immune undead traits
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OFFENSE
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Speed 50 ft.
Melee gore + 18 (2d6 + 8/x2 and disease) and slam + 18 (1d8 + 12/x2 and disease)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
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STATISTICS
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Str 26, Dex 13, Con —, Int —, Wis 10, Cha 10
Base Atk + 11; CMB + 20; CMD 31
Feats Toughness
Skills Acrobatics + 1 (+ 9 jump), Fly – 1, Stealth – 3
SQ quick strikes
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SPECIAL ABILITIES
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Quick Strikes (Ex) Whenever the Revenant Red Boar takes a full-attack action, it can make one additional slam attack at its highest base attack bonus.

Disease (Su) Zombie’s Touch–-injury; save Fort DC 13, onset 1 day. The save DC is Charisma based. Akin to ghoul fever, zombie’s touch is a tad more insidious in that infected individuals only show flu-like symptoms during the initial infection. It is upon the death of infected individuals that the disease shows its true nature. Usually within one to two nights after death, the putrid remains of the individual return to un-life. The infected cannot spread zombie’s touch while still alive, but exposure to the newly created zombies will continue the cycle.

Once the boar is defeated, Brinkus notices the bite marks from Bessie on the boar carcass and suggests that the party check the particular portal that Xavier came from (he will give directions as best he can., but the portals do change regularly…).

Scene 6—Through The Portals: Feel free to use the Chase Deck here again if it played well in the prior encounter. If you’re short on time, just offer brief descriptions of each room as the PCs hustle through the caverns and portals.

Once through the gauntlet, the party discovers a natural cavern with unnatural properties. Xavier has been hard at work turning this room into a necromancer’s haven. If Bob and the zombie prostitute have not been dealt with, they are here with Xavier. There are five other corpses nearby that Xavier can animate, depending on how well the fight goes. Xavier has the same stats as a skeletal mage from Pathfinder AP 44: Trial of The Beast, but is advanced to a 9th-level necromancer.

Xavier Skincrawler CR 11
XP 12,800
Human skeletal mage necromancer 9
NE Medium undead
Init + 6; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; life sight 10’ (9 rounds/day); Perception + 13
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DEFENSE
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AC 19, touch 13, flat-footed 16 (+ 4 armor, + 3 Dex, + 2 natural)
hp 73 (11 HD; 2d8 + 9d6 + 33)
Fort + 5, Ref + 8, Will + 12
Defensive Abilities channel resistance + 4; DR 5/bludgeoning; Immune cold, undead traits
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OFFENSE
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Speed 30 ft.
Melee mwk dagger + 9 (1d4 + 1/19–20), claw + 2 (1d4) or 2 claws + 7 (1d4 + 1) or spectral hand +9 touch (by touch spell)
Ranged ray + 8 ranged touch (by spell)
Special Attacks channel negative energy (DC 13, 6/day, command undead only)
Arcane School Spell-Like Abilities (CL 3rd; concentration +6)
6/day— grave touch (4 rounds)
Spells Prepared (CL 3rd; concentration +6)
5th— suffocation (DC 20)
4th— animate dead, enervation
3rd— lightning bolt (DC 15), pain strike (DC 15), vampiric touch x2
2nd— blindness/deafness (DC 17), ghoul touch (DC 17), scorching ray, spectral hand x2
1st— chill touch (DC 16), mage armor (already cast), magic missile x2, ray of enfeeblement (DC 16)
0th (At Will)— detect magic, ghost sound, ray of frost, read magic, touch of fatigue (DC 15)
Opposition Schools Enchantment, Illusion
Arcane Discovery Fast Study
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STATISTICS
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Str 12, Dex 16, Con —, Int 16, Wis 12, Cha 15
Base Atk + 5; CMB + 6; CMD 18
Feats Combat Casting, Command Undead (6/day), Greater Spell Focus (necromancy), Improved Initiative, Scribe Scroll, Silent Spell, Spell Focus (necromancy), Spell Mastery (animate dead, magic missile, vampiric touch), Spell Penetration, Toughness, Weapon Finesse
Skills Intimidate + 8, Knowledge (arcana) + 16, Knowledge (religion) + 16, Perception + 13, Sense Motive + 14, Spellcraft + 16, Stealth + 15
Languages Abyssal, Common, Draconic, Undercommon
SQ arcane bond (skull)
Treasure + 1 dagger, cloak of resistance + 2, skull, spell component pouch, spellbook, wand of acid arrow (CL 6, 16 charges), 1,000 gp

A Study In Crimson

Tales of the Crimson Boar deadeye2891